NewEnergyNews: “CLEAN” COAL IN WYOMING

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: U.S. WIND RIGHT NOW
  • QUICK NEWS, August 26: CLIMATE MODELS PROVE RIGHT AGAIN; ABOUT INVESTING IN SOLAR; GM VS TESLA IN THE 200 MILE RACE

    THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: NEW CALMER WINDS AHEAD FOR EUROPE
  • QUICK NEWS, August 25: JULY’S U.S. ENERGY BUILD WAS ALL NEW ENERGY; CLIMATE CHANGE FOR ENERGY INVESTORS; WIND CAN GROW FASTER THAN NUCLEAR
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: New Thoughts About New Energy For A New Climate
  • Weekend Video: Carbon
  • Weekend Video: Why Utilities Struggle With New Energy
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WHY DENIERS’ BRAINS REJECT CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CHINESE TO HELP SAUDIS GO NEW ENERGY BY 2032
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-BUILDING EFFICIENCY TO BOOM IN EUROPE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-GEOTHERMAL SEEKS CARIBBEAN BREAKTHROUGH
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 21:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE RISKIEST ENERGY PLAYS IN THE WORLD
  • TTTA Thursday-FACTS ON BIRDS AND SOLAR POWER
  • TTTA Thursday-WIND PRICES AT ALL TIME LOWS
  • TTTA Thursday-PRICES DROPPING ON GREEN BUILDING
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: IMPORTS, EXPORTS AND NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, August 20: COURTS DISMISS 98% OF WIND HEALTH COMPLAINTS; TURNING OLD CAR BATTERIES INTO NEW SOLAR PANELS; OCEAN ENERGY PIONEERS
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

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  • Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    “CLEAN” COAL IN WYOMING

    No shrinking violet, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal. He is trying to be a responsible environmentalist and a Wyoming coal industry advocate by leading the way on “clean” coal.

    The Governor recently called for safety regulations and property rights laws governing the sequestration of greenhouse gases to be captured by coal-fired power plants burning his state’s rich resource. (Wyoming is the top U.S. coal producer.) Freudenthal also condemned the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for pulling its backing for FutureGen, previously considered the U.S. premier pilot carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) project.

    Freudenthal pointed out that the President had called for the development of “clean” coal technology in the State of the Union address even as DOE was folding on FutureGen: "…the project that has been talked about as kind of the flagship technology for many years, had lots of states put in effort to apply for it, it finally gets down to the point where people are serious about it, and all of a sudden, the administration does a complete about-face…To me, it's not only astonishing, it's disingenuous. It's kind of like they invited all of us to go to the prom, picked their date, and then canceled the dance…It seems to me - the absurdity of it - it could only be the federal government that would do this…"


    Schematic of carbon-capture-and-sequestration concepts. (click to enlarge)

    Freudenthal wants Wyoming to use federal abandoned mine clean-up funds to develop its own CCS projects: "The fundamental fact remains that over the next decade, you can't shift from an economy in the United States where whatever it is, half the electricity consumed in this country comes from coal…I think that it is an unfortunate development. But 20 years from now it's going to have to be in place. The question is, how many fits and starts we're going to have to go through getting there."

    The question is, Governor, how much of increasingly dwindling public funds should the U.S. use on a technology that is 20 years off and can never really be clean (because coal mining is an abomination to the landscape and coal transport is energy intensive) when those funds could go to build wind and solar power plants that are available now, truly clean and unlimited in supply?

    Unfortunately, Governor Freudenthal's attempt to straddle the divide between the coal industry and the environment by using the oxymoronic epithet "clean coal may leave him in an oxymoronic political position.


    Panel backs carbon storage regulation
    Bob Moen, January 24, 2008 (Casper Star-Tribune)
    and
    Wyo. Governor Blasts Gov’t on FutureGen
    Ben Neary, January 31, 2008 (AP via Forbes)

    WHO
    Joint Judiciary Interim Committee of the Wyoming Legislature, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), FutureGen, Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)

    WHAT
    Freudenthal urged the Wyoming legislative committee to give regulatory oversight on “clean” coal to the state’s DEQ and recognize surface landowners’ rights to the emissions storage voids. He condemned DOE’s backing out of FutureGen and reaffirmed his state’s commitment to carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) pilot projects.

    Wyoming sits on one the U.S.' richest coal beds. It also has geologic structures suited to sequestration - theoretically. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    The regulatory measures will be taken up by the full Wyoming Legislature in February.

    WHERE
    The attraction of CCS in Wyoming is that the state has abundant coal resources as well as vast deep geologic structures for sequestration.

    WHY
    - Freudenthal is positioning his state to have a significant voice in CCS development.
    - Freudenthal is confident DEQ can effectively regulate the CCS process.
    - Freduenthal wants surface landowners with deep geologic formations to profit from emissions storage and he wants to protect them from unnecessary liabilities.
    - The cancellation of FutureGen follows extensive political angling that pushed Wyoming out of the plan.
    - The Governor wants Wyoming to spend its federal abandoned mine clean-up funds ($82.7 million this year, $580 million over the next 7 years) on smaller CCS pilot projects.

    Some of Wyoming's neighbors in Montana are not as enthusiastic about coal. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Freudenthal, on developing Wyoming CCS regulations: "The best way to [secure a Wyoming voice in federal regulations] is to have something in place first, instead of having the federal government come and say, 'Well, you're not doing anything now, do exactly what we tell you'…I think we have a better chance of defining how this issue is treated in a way that makes sense for Wyoming if we act now…I think this nation's going to be at this issue for a long time. Start with some small steps and then you move forward."
    - Freudenthal, on the wealth that will go to landowners with deep geologic emissions storage formations: "I would rather that wealth go to our citizens than to the federal government…"
    - Senator Enzi: "Several projects have been proposed in Wyoming and are struggling with funding…If funding isn't going to one big project outside of Wyoming, there are many options in our state that can be in the forefront of revolutionary new wave technologies designed to meet environmental challenges."

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